Inside Dentistry
May 2016
Volume 12, Issue 5

5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building Your Marketing Budget

Ensure your marketing dollars are spent most effectively

Naomi Cooper

Do you hear the word marketing and automatically start seeing dollar signs? Marketing a dental practice doesn’t have to require a corporate-sized budget, but it certainly can break the bank if there isn’t a prudent plan in place.

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went,” according to well-known financial guru Dave Ramsey. Creating a budget might seem daunting, but it can be even more overwhelming to not have a pre-planned spending strategy in place when it comes to marketing expenditures. Whether you’ve been practicing for years or are just now getting started, here are five pitfalls to avoid when building a budget for marketing.

Pitfall No. 1: Spending Money Without a Marketing Plan

When calculating how much money should be devoted to marketing, consider what has been done in the recent past. For instance, if the practice’s logo, website, and printed materials haven’t been updated in several years, or if there hasn’t ever been an overall marketing plan in place, it will likely be necessary to spend a bit more up front to get the essentials for the long haul.

If this is the first time in several years that you are considering spending more on marketing the practice, or a year when you expect to overhaul the practice’s marketing, plan for at least 6% of gross production to go towards bringing the marketing up to date. In a maintenance year when there is no marketing infrastructure that needs updating, or a year where you are simply looking to maintain the practice’s new patient flow, 3% should be sufficient.

Also, think about other outside factors: how well known the practice is within the community, how competitive the market is, how well located the practice is relative to population growth or new development. A new doctor opening a new office will require a larger budget than one who has been in practice in the neighborhood for 20 years, and a practice in a high-growth area may need to spend less than one in an area that is rife with competition and lean on new movers to the area.

Pitfall No. 2: Failing to Prioritize

Billboard advertising, direct mail, signage at the mall, and advertising in the local newspaper might all seem like easy ways to build brand recognition, and they can be if you have an unlimited marketing budget. Most dentists, however, don’t have a fortune to spend chasing down every imaginable marketing tactic. When budgets are limited, prioritization is a must.

What should a dentist’s marketing priorities be? Start with clean branding and a modern website design. Make sure the practice logo is professionally designed and used consistently across all online and print materials. Update the practice website if it hasn’t been touched within the past 12 to 18 months.

Identify the target patient profile—those patients whom you most want to attract—and devote the marketing dollars to tactics that will best reach that target audience. For example, many dentists are focused on attracting moms, which means that online strategies like social media marketing, online advertising, and Google AdWords are potentially more effective than old school methods like print advertising. However, for dentists looking to attract the retiree population, it may make sense to continue with more traditional marketing tactics.

Pitfall No. 3: Always Saying “Yes”

It’s not uncommon for a dental office to field dozens of marketing sales calls a week. Regardless of how persuasive the salesperson may be, not every marketing effort will pay off for every practice. Spending money on sporadic, half-hearted activities isn’t going to yield the type of return on investment (ROI) that dentists are looking for.

The next time a salesperson calls, don’t be afraid to say “not yet.” Take a step back and decide if what they are selling is capable of being measured. In other words, if it isn’t actually going to generate quantifiable results, attract the practice’s target audience, and help reach the practice’s goals, then what purpose does it serve?

Carefully choosing a few measurable marketing initiatives and executing them well will be much more beneficial in the long run than a scattershot approach. Success will not come from doing everything possible, but from doing the few things that make the most sense exceedingly well.

Pitfall No. 4: Not Tracking Results

It’s impossible to know what is working and what isn’t if no one is tracking the results. Benchmarks and tracking mechanisms are needed to determine whether or not each marketing tactic is producing an acceptable ROI. And remember, even if something seems like it’s not working, that doesn’t mean that it’s a total waste of money. Sometimes a slight adjustment in how leads are handled can mean the difference between a resoundingly successful marketing campaign and an abject failure.

Tracking starts with the front desk. The extent to which the team members are responsible for answering the phones plays a make-or-break role in the success of the overall marketing plan. They should be tracking every new patient phone call—not only to find out how the new patient heard about the practice, but to follow through with identifying which new patients’ calls ultimately result in an actual appointment. This will give a more accurate account of which marketing methods produce the most calls and which produce the most new patient appointments.

Pitfall No. 5: Doing It All Yourself

With all of the responsibilities already on a dentist’s plate, daily marketing tasks are well suited for delegation. Assigning the role of day-to-day marketing to a trusted staff person can help save time while providing him or her with a sense of added responsibility to the practice, as long as they have the time and expertise to manage everything. If not, it may be time to outsource the duties to an experienced dental marketing consultant, which puts your practice marketing in a highly skilled professional’s hands and creates momentum by ensuring you and the team are accountable for implementation—and results.

About the Author

Naomi Cooper is president of Minoa Marketing and CEO of Doctor Distillery. She is a respected dental marketing strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. Naomi teaches Pride Institute’s groundbreaking marketing courses and consults for leading companies across the dental industry, helping them to develop a cohesive marketing approach and creating momentum—and tangible results—for their marketing efforts aimed at the dental professional. Naomi can be reached via email at naomi@minoamarketing.com, and she blogs regularly at www.minoamarketing.com. For regular updates from Naomi, including dental marketing/social media tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or “like” Naomi Cooper—Minoa Marketing on Facebook at www.fb.com/minoamarketing.

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